It seems that the rioters in London, have been actively using BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) to communicate with one another. Now, the U.K. prime minister, David Cameron, is considering blocking popular social networks like Twitter and Facebook – along with popular messaging services like BBM, in order to help curb the communication between rioters. Cameron says that the British government is working with law enforcement and intelligence services. “whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality”.
This week, three people have already been arrested in on suspicion of using social media to encourage rioting.
Sophy Tobias, a spokeswoman for Facebook, has stepped up and said that that Facebook is already taking measures to remove and credible threats of violence that might be posted to Facebook. This complies with Facebook’s policy of removing violent content or anything that might be deemed hate speech.
It was not long ago that the former Egyptian government tried blocking social networks in their country. And if there is anything that history has taught us, it is that curbing people’s communication and speech can never lead to good things. Of course, privacy advocates are already in a tizzy over the possibility of the government playing around with citizen’s right to freedom of communication. “History does show that if governments take wide powers when emotions are running very high, the powers tend to be abused” says David Hooper, an intellectual property lawyer with Reynolds Porter Chamberlain LLP in London.
Overall, this is certainly a tough one for the British government to decide on. If they decide to block social networks, they’ll be heavily ridiculed and criticized. On the other hand, the riots that are happening in London at the moment are the worst in a generation. And anything they can do to curb the spread of violence and destruction seems like a necessity at the moment.